Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mamata gives Left Front a lifeline

Trinamool chief severs all ties with the Congress in West Bengal as seat sharing talks for election to 81 civic bodies fail, Chandrasekhar Bhattacharjee writes

The ensuing municipal elections in West Bengal may provide a much-needed breather to the ruling Left Front dispensation, courtesy the fresh feud between the Trinamool Congress and the Indian National Congress in the state. TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee announced severing of all ties with the Congress in the state, adding that the party will go it alone for control of all the 81 civic bodies. In fact, during the seat-sharing parleys, both parties were sticking to their guns by not sparing seats for the other in their respective areas of dominance. This has come as a silver lining for the Left Front (read CPM) and rendered people advocating ‘change’ shattered.

The elections to the 81 civic bodies, slated on May 30, have seen the State Election Commission facing severe criticism for announcing the date of polls nearly a month before the date of notification without enforcing the Model Code of Conduct. This allowed the Left Front to dole out election lollies in the shape of new programmes. Ministers continued with inauguration or stone-laying ceremonies, distribution of flats, announcing sops for hawkers, etc. None objected, not even the Trinamool Congress. The last date for submitting nomination was fixed on May 3 but the commission suo moto extended it by a day on the pretext of Bharat Bandh on April 27 and May Day, which is unprecedented. Despite the fact that the commission in West Bengal obeys what the bosses at CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street dictate, the CPM state secretary, Biman Bose, criticised the commission. Observers think this act of the Left Front chairman is nothing but a mere eye-wash. The Left Front government pulled the commission’s sanctity to zero when the commission announced that only the police would be used to guard polling booths. It got the wildest response from the home department. The department, which is headed by the chief minister himself, declared that home guards (mostly party cardres) will also be posted to maintain law and order in polling booths. The commission, obviously, has not reacted to this ever since.

Having received a serious jolt in the Lok Sabha elections last year, the CPM appeared to be in serious crisis this time as the Mayor of Kolkata Corporation and the chairman of Salt Lake Municipality were both dropped. Both came out in the open and said they could not do much due to resistance from party bosses. The Salt Lake Municipality chairman refused to contest from another ward leaving his own for someone else. The chairpersons of Arambagh and Rishra (both CPM-held) both got re-nominations only after declaring revolt against the party. Inter-party feud between Left Front partners have been reported from all over the state.

People were hopeful of change but their aspirations got shattered after TMC unilaterally announced a list of 115 candidates out of 141 councillor seats for Kolkata. Mamata was not ready to allow the Congress to contest more than 25 seats while the Congress had bagged 21 seats in last municipal poll and stood second in more than 30 seats. On the other hand, TMC, which won 47 seats in last election, now wants to contest 116 seats. Mamata says, “As the Congress is not sharing seats with us in Murshidabad, Malda and Jalpaiguri, we have no responsibility to share more seats in Kolkata.” She even refused to call the Congress a ‘friend’ and accused the century-old party of hobnobbing with BJP to help the CPM. While announcing the revised and final list of 141 candidates for Kolkata Municipal Corporation, she thundered, “Even the combined support of the Congress and the BJP will not help CPM in defeating TMC.”

The fact is that, Congress leaders like Keshav Rao and Ahmed Patel tried their level best to keep the alliance intact and requested Mamata to share just 41 seats. Later they dropped their demand to only 35 seats. Their effort went in vain. Being ignored by the partner, Congress activists twice vandalised the Pradesh Congress office and broke its window panes. As all parleys failed and the deadline for nomination drew close, the PCC announced a list of 88 candidates for Kolkata Municipal Corporation with a call to renegotiate the whole thing afresh. But, Mamata’s final decision to sever all ties, not only in Kolkata but the whole state, forced the Congress leaders to declare candidates for 100 seats. Interestingly, while she snapped all ties with the Congress in the state, she declared that she and her colleagues will remain in the UPA.
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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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